Matched Betting Guide – Make the Most of Bookmakers’ Free Bets

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Matched betting, sometimes referred to as match betting, is a method of placing wagers on sporting events that takes the risk out of wagering. It’s a fairly simple technique that takes advantage of bookmakers’ free bets offers.

By using a bookie’s free bet as part of your gambling approach to an event, you can cover all outcomes and enjoy a risk-free bet.

Taking the jeopardy out of sports betting sounds like it should be impossible. But match betting has been around for many years, it’s not illegal, and it offers you a zero-risk betting strategy.

Now let’s look in more detail at no-risk matched betting and explain how you can use bookmaker offers to place your first matched bet.

What is Matched Betting?

For as long as people have wagered on sporting events, the idea of guaranteeing a return on gambling has been an elusive dream.

But that dream came true in the early years of the 21st century with the arrival of betting exchanges and online wagering platforms. In the years since, matched betting in the USA has become a widespread and popular activity.

The key element in matched betting is the bookmakers’ free bets. For example, BetOnline gives customers up to $1,000 in free bets when they sign up. It’s a massive incentive to open an account.

By using a bookie’s free bet to cover one outcome in a game, and using your own money to cover the other, you can ensure a profit.

That’s where the name comes from; your bet on one team to win is matched by your wager on the other team to prevail.

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How does Matched Betting Work?

By enabling you to stake money on both outcomes in a head-to-head sporting event, like tennis, which in turn ensures you will get a payout.

The twist is that you can use a bookie’s free bet generated by a promotional offer from an operator for one of those wagers.

Whatever the result of the match – particularly in major American sports, where there is no such thing as a draw or a tie – you are going to get a payout. That means you should end up with more money than you started with.

As will become clear, the availability of bookmakers’ free bets is fundamental to matched betting. Certain sports lend themselves more naturally to match betting, this will become obvious if you know how to bet on tennis or other sports with only two possible outcomes to every game or match.

Bookmakers are aware of matched betting, but they have taken no steps to prevent it. Clearly, the benefits of offering free bets to new customers – which enables some to engage in no-risk matched betting – outweigh any negatives.

Example of Match Betting

Let’s use an example as a matched betting guide. For the purpose of this illustration, we’ll use the 2024 Super Bowl – in which there were only two possible outcomes, a win for the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers.

If you opened an account at an online sportsbook that offered you a $10 free bet in return for your first $10 wager, you would have a $10 free bet available to use.

You could use this to bet on the 49ers at -125, while also placing a $10 real-money bet on the Chiefs at +100. Also note, it is probably wise to have that second wager at a different operator.

If the 49ers had won, you’d have got $18 back, while the Chiefs’ win would have netted you $20.

That’s a $20 return on a pair of wagers that cost you only $10 in actual cash.

While bookmakers do not officially oppose matched betting, placing both wagers with the same operator can cause some difficulties. There are matched betting sites that highlight opportunities for match betting and help avoid difficulty from bookmakers.

The huge number of online operators available mean it makes sense to place matched bets with different operators to avoid putting your account in jeopardy.

Match Betting Explained

When you want to begin matched betting, the steps you’ll need to take to roll out a zero-risk betting strategy are as follows:

  • Look at a list of bookmakers that offer free bets as a signing-up bonus. You may be able to generate up to $150 or $200 in free bets simply by placing a single first wager of just $10.
  • Check the terms and conditions of your welcome bonus carefully. Look out for restrictions in terms of minimum odds, maximum stakes, and any time limits by which your free bets must be placed.
  • Open an account and place that first bet to give yourself several free bets – they are usually in the amount of $10.
  • Identify a game you want to bet on, and place a $10 free bet on one side to win.
  • Now visit another online bookmaker, or betting exchange, where you have an account and place a $10 bet on that side to not win by betting on their opponents with a bookmaker.
  • Be aware of the draw; matched betting depends on covering all available outcomes so it’s best to avoid sports where a draw is a possibility, like soccer. Alternatively, learn what ‘draw no bet’ means and use that bet to your advantage. It should at least yield a push in the case of a draw or tie.
  • Collect your winnings from whichever of your wagers is successful.

Bookmakers Offers to Match Bet On

If you check out a list of current bookmaker offers, you should be confronted by a huge number of ways to collect free bets.

“Stake a certain amount to get $XX in free bets” is the most common type of welcome bonus presently available to new clients at sports betting sites.

It’s a clear indication that bookmakers do not see matched betting as a threat or a menace. If they did, they would offer different incentives to potential customers!

However, while bookmakers’ free bets are widely available to new sign-ups, you are unlikely to be offered such a bonus once you are a regular player.

Terms and conditions for bookmaker offers will vary between operators, so always check the small print.

Matched Betting Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages

  • The biggest plus of matched betting is that you are guaranteed a return on your pair of wagers.
  • For a small amount of research and careful staking, you can enjoy a risk-free bet.
  • Opening several online accounts enables you to shop around for the best odds going forward.

Disadvantages

  • The level of your stake is determined by the size of the free bet you use, which may not be attractive to high rollers.
  • There may be a time limit; you could have just seven days to use all your free bets with one bookmaker.
  • A zero-risk betting strategy sounds attractive, but for many of us the risk is a key part of the fun of wagering on sports.

Conclusion

Matched betting is a great way to make money on sports betting.

Over time, you can build up a tidy profit that will give you extra staking power for your regular wagering. Knowing how to bet on baseball and being able to back both outcomes is a huge advantage when you consider how many games are played in a season.

It does take a little time and practice, but the number of opportunities and bookmaker offers available that give you free bets mean there is always potential to enjoy regular matched betting.

With no sign that the supply of bookmakers’ free bets will dry up any time soon, this could be the ideal time for you to begin matched betting.

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Martin Booth
Sports & Casino Expert
Martin Booth
Sports & Casino Expert

Martin brings extensive experience from the gambling industry to the task of writing about global online sports betting and casino operations. He spent more than two decades in senior roles on the sports desks of UK national newspapers, then moved on to work in a B2C and B2B capacity for major gambling firms. He now runs an award-winning copywriting consultancy and has written extensively for sites such as Gambling.com, Bookies.com, Casino.org and Horseracing.co.uk. Martin has been interested in gambling for more than 50 years, ever since he had two shillings each way on Red Rum in the 1973 Grand National.